Recently, we have been witness to a rise in exposure of mental health, thanks to the media. Never has it been more prevalent, and so now is the perfect time to look at the research and focus on what can be done to improve our mental health. In particular, one of the most obvious, yet under acknowledged factors, is the role which nutrition plays on our mental health. Here, we take a look at which foods research has indicated plays a contributing role.
It’s undeniable that in recent years, research has indicated a link between diet and mental health. In fact, this body of evidence is growing at a rapid rate, and yet, diet still often remains a last resort when it comes to addressing ways to help improve or prevent the onset of mental health issues.
Most of the brain is actually derived directly from food. Changes in our diet in recent years mean that what we are eating on a daily basis is in fact much different in its nutritional content than that of our ancestors.
Our heart, liver and stomach are organs, and so too is our brain. It is acutely sensitive to what we eat. To remain healthy, it needs different amounts of nutrients ranging from; essential fatty acids, amino acids, vitamins, minerals and water.
If you are someone who has ever smoked, drank alcohol, tea or coffee, or eaten chocolate, you will know only too well that they can alter the state of your mood, the effect, depending on the substance, is thankfully often temporary! But what is less commonly known is that some foods can actually have a longer lasting influence on mood and mental well being, and this is the focus of the work successfully provided to all clients by 121 Dietitian.
Research has shown that food plays an important role in the development, management and prevention of mental health problems, such as depression, schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and Alzheimer’s disease, but which foods in particular are they referring to?
Dramatically decrease your consumption of sugar
Top of the list is to decrease your consumption of sugar, and in particular fructose, grains, and processed foods. Not only are processed foods high in sugar and grains, they are also packed full of a variety of additives, which can affect your brain function and mental state, especially artificial sweeteners. Research has shown that a diet rich in processed foods is also linked to an increased risk of depression.
Increase your intake of fish
Several studies have indicated that low levels of fish consumption by country were linked to higher levels of depression among its citizens, and vice versa. Fish is rich in omega-3 fats, which are crucial for optimal brain function and mental health.
Up your vitamin B intake
Low levels of the B vitamins including vitamin B1, B2, B12 and folate have been linked to an increased risk for depression. Ensure your diet is rich in seafood, beef, chicken, pork, milk and eggs to increase your daily intake.
Get more vitamin D
The best way to up your vitamin D levels is through regular sun exposure. Vitamin D is essential for your mood. There’s a reason why people are happier when it’s sunny! One study found that people with the lowest levels of vitamin D were 11 times more prone to depression than those with normal levels.
The best way to optimize your vitamin D levels, is through sunshine but in this country, it isn’t always easy. When it comes to foods rich in vitamin D, opt for salmon, tuna, sole, fortified cereals, eggs, ricotta, milk, pork and mushrooms. Remember, SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is a type of depression that we know is related to sunshine deficiency, so it would make sense that the perfect way to optimize your vitamin D is through sun exposure.
In summary, while research is still on-going to understand the role that nutrition plays in contributing to our mental health, early evidence already shows there is a clear link. The work at 121 Dietitian ensures all patients treated daily in clinic benefit from this and their results are testimony to this.
What can you do to experience some positive changes? Start by reducing your intake of processed foods and refined sugar, consume foods rich in omega-3, and B vitamins, as well as soaking up those sunshine rays, and if you are not sure about how to do this fully come and see us happy people at 121 Dietitian.